Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

21/06/2016 - 25/06/2016

Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent, Havelock North Village Green, Havelock North

09/10/2016 - 09/10/2016

Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

28/02/2013 - 03/03/2013

Circa One, Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

25/03/2017 - 25/03/2017

BATS Theatre, The Heyday Dome, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

17/06/2016 - 18/06/2016

Kia Mau Festival 2016

Matariki Festival 2016

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2016

Auckland Fringe 2013

Capital E National Arts Festival

Production Details


White Face Crew presents
Created and Performed by Justin Haiu and Tama Jarman
Direction by Jarod Rawiri

Hot on the heels of winning the Creative NZ Emerging Pacific Artist Award, Justin Haiu teams up with theatre compatriots Tama Jarman (The Arrival, Operation Overdue) and Jarod Rawiri (I, George Nepia, Harry) to wow Auckland audiences from 28 February – 3 March with their hot, hilarious and happening new White Face Crew  show La Vie Dans Une Marionette at the Basement Theatre.

Packed full of gags and hilarious moments La Vie Dans Une Marionette draws you into the epic world of a lonely pianist and the puppet he befriends. But unlike other puppets this one has a life of his own. And if the pianist can bring his puppet to life with live music, how far will he go to control life – and death?

The White Face Crew brings together the best elements of physical theatre, clowning, and contemporary and hip-hop dance styles. Chuck in improvisation, spontaneity and good old fashioned fun, and the White Face Crew create a dynamic production with charm and chic. And as the title suggests, it’s a little bit French!

La Vie Dans Une Marionette won the Wild card Award at Short & Sweet Theatre 2010, and the White Face Crew continued their winning streak with the Supreme Award at Short & Sweet Dance 2012 for Double Derelicts. La Vie Dans Une Marionette comes back to life in 2013 as a full-length work for the Basement Theatre’s Fringe Festival Programme.

The White Face Crew is Justin Haiu, Jarod Rawiri, and Tama Jarman. Justin Haiu shot to fame as runner-up on NZ’s ‘So you think you can dance’ in 2006, and has performed with NZ Dance Company, Black Grace and Red Leap Theatre. Jarod Rawiri is a 2011 Chapman Tripp award winning actor (I, George Nepia), a 2011 AFTA award nominee (Waitangi – What Really Happened), and performed in theatre productions The Arrival, Tu, and Flintlock Musket. Tama Jarman is an actor, writer and dancer and has worked with Red Leap Theatre, Auckland Theatre Company’s Young & Hungry, and the Ugly Shakespeare Company.

Auckland Fringe runs from 15 February to 10 March 2013. For more Auckland Fringe information go to
LA VIE DANS UNE MARIONETTE plays 28th February – 3rd March, 8:30pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Venue: The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
Tickets: Adult $20, Child $10, Concession $15 Group $15
Bookings: iTicket – or ph (09) 361 1000  



Shortland Street star Jarod Rawiri is stepping off our screens and making a come-back on stage during Matariki with theatre compatriots Tama Jarman (The Arrival, Operation Overdue) and Justin Haiu (NZ Dance Company, So You Think You Can Dance), in the return season of the hilarious White Face Crew show La Vie Dans Une Marionette at The Basement Theatre and BATS in June 2016.


Venue: BATS Theatre, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington
Dates:Fri 17 June 6.30pm and Sat 18 June 2pm and 6.30pm
Tickets: or ph (04) 802 4175

Venue: The Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Avenue, Auckland CBD
Dates: Tues 21 – Sat 25 June 8pm
Tickets: or ph (09) 361 1000  

Hawkes Bay Arts Festival 2016  
Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent
Sun Oct 9th
PRICES: Adult  $35; Premier Adult  $45; Concession  $25
Family Pass (price per person)  $25; Premier Concession:  $35 

Capital E National Arts festival 2017

La Vie Dans Une Marionette
Circa Theatre
Saturday 25 March

For more information or to book tickets to La Vie Dans Une Marionette, visit

Theatre , Clown ,

1 hour

Impeccable timing, grace and skill

Review by Patrick Davies 22nd Mar 2017

In La Vie Dans Une Marionette the White Face Crew present a superb piece of theatre. It is presented as part of the Capital E Arts Festival and I’m surrounded by a large number of school children, rowdy and ready for a good time.

Our French Usher (Jarod Rawiri) brings us into the space and casually interacts with the children setting them up for laughter and cleverly indoctrinating them into the ‘rules’ of performance. Asking questions and treating the answers with child-like simplicity he controls the audience with simple gestures and looks, setting up their responses to the mostly mute performance to follow. It’s an enchanting start, free of any condescension.

An agoraphobic Pianist (Tama Jarman), mourning a huge loss, befriends a Marionette (Justin Haiu) he has ordered and discovers life again. Sounds simple doesn’t it – and it is, but as the Marionette (which, magically, has independent movement) and the Pianist develop their relationship, huge emotions of loss, suicide, loneliness and recovery are unashamedly worked through.

It’s brave and marvellous to see such things represented onstage at a children’s festival. In a country with a high depression and suicide rate, presenting these themes straightforwardly is to be lauded. 

All three actors are white face, in reference to the tradition of clown and are mostly mute, using wonderful physicality to tell the story. Classic techniques like re-incorporation keep the audience laughing as the Pianist adjusts his chair: each time we know what’s coming and are delighted. Other gags – such as the ‘don’t look at my bottom’ gag – are returned to and developed. Each and all of these methods keep a direct connection to the audience that’s vital in front of children.  

Jarod Rawiri, as well as being our French Usher, is also our sense of time – donning a Moon head (a clever nod to Georges Melie’s Le Voyage Dans La Lune); being a grouchy delivery man whose gibberish has more than a passing resemblance to Te Reo; and serving as the Director.

Tama Jarman and Justin Haius’ chemistry and physicality is sublime. Haius’ dance background is evident and his movements are nothing other than a marionette’s. When Jarman first ‘unpacks’ Haius there are audible gasps from us more mature types in the back row. The impeccable timing, grace and skill of the movements are literally breath-taking. As the witty narrative unfolds – the Pianist ‘educating’ his new found friend in the everyday tasks of life – the comedy has the simplicity that only hours of rehearsal can attain.

Even though children can last more than an hour in front of the box, the story does lag towards the end as there are several times we all think the story is over. These apparent false endings do make the kids restless even though they are entertained.

This show was created and performed by Rawiri, Haiu and Jarman, and I would really like there to have been a programme purely to find out who the lighting designer is as their work gives simple, clear and well-chosen support to the action.

If you want to see the sort of quality theatre that should be funded up the wazoo because it’s so good, make sure you see anything the White Face Crew are up to – you won’t be disappointed.


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Exhilaratingly funny, sad and heart-warming

Review by Jenny Wake 10th Oct 2016

The Pacific Crystal Palace Spiegeltent, with its vibe of quirky elegance and faded glory, provides the perfect setting for this show about a tail-coated gentleman who has seen happier days.  

As the tent fills, a Master of Ceremonies works the crowd. He’s part usher, complete entertainer. He whips off his red jacket and flourishes it matador style, calling for someone from the audience to play the bull. A boy obliges and plays the role brilliantly, pawing the ground before each charge.

A second volunteer takes on the role of an audience member so the MC can teach us some rules of behaviour (rapturous applause, loud laughter, no yakking on the mobile…). But our volunteer’s good-natured, bumbling performance makes it clear we’re not puppets on strings – we’ll behave as we will, thank you. And so the show goes.

An enormous package is delivered to the home of a lonely pianist. Inside it is a marionette, lifeless and floppy. The pianist picks up invisible strings and, limb by limb, starts to bring the puppet to life. Already, I’m enthralled.

The White Face Crew – Jarod Rawiri, Tama Jarman and Justin Haiu as the marionette – perform in white face makeup and white gloves, reminiscent of clowns and mime artists of the past. They have a set, they use some props and one of them speaks, but essentially this is a classy, highly entertaining mime show.

The scene in which the pianist learns how to manipulate the puppet is an absolute joy to watch. He picks up the strings and the marionette is suddenly buoyant with life. The choreography is beautiful, the physical contortions are great fun and the timing is perfect.

The pianist now has a companion to share the routines of his daily life. He can manipulate the marionette to do the household chores and abide by the rules he sets, and he can activate/deactivate him as he chooses.

But the pianist’s music magically infuses the marionette with real life. His strings are cut and he is no longer under the pianist’s control. And in the end, can we ever completely control the destiny of others, even those we most love?

From my seat to one side near the front, I can see an audience of well-heeled adults. But there are families, too, and children creep forward for a closer look, nestling in the aisle beside me. As I watch the onstage shenanigans, a huge smile on my face, their laughter punctuates the physical comedy and their absorbed silence deepens the moments of pathos.

It’s not all clowning around. The pianist has loved and lost, and the loss is more than he can bear.

Half a lifetime of shared routines and companionship plays out before us, picking up pace until the poor actor playing the moon hardly knows if he’s waxing or waning. It’s exhilaratingly funny, sad and heart-warming seeing the relationship between pianist and marionette mature.

This isn’t a children’s show as such. The festival programme rates La Vie Dans Une Marionette as Family 8+, and I’d agree. I highly recommend it for anyone over the age of 8, adults included. There’s a moment of raunchy, comedic hanky-panky and an attempted suicide, both incidents beautifully mimed, both generally taboo in a children’s show, but depicted in a stylised way likely to go over the heads of those in the audience with the least life experience. The children around me seem to take these moments in their stride and I doubt any young minds are damaged.

But if you take your kids – and you should, they’ll love it – be prepared for the discussion on the way home to reflect on what it means to lose a loved one, live among people whose lives and deaths are not ours to control, grow old, crave companionship, be human…

I am utterly charmed by this show. It’s a privilege to have the fledgling Harcourts Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival providing access to such work in our neighbourhood.


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Rich, fertile and engaging for all ages

Review by Dione Joseph 24th Jun 2016

It’s a Thursday night and there’s an air of eager anticipation amongst the audience that have gathered together in the Basement for La Vie Dans Une Marionette. Our usher, Jarod Rawiri, dressed meticulously in monochrome colours and replete with white kid gloves, a dab pencil moustache and of course white face paint, is the perfect effervescent host as he marshals the punters to their seats.

It’s a night of intimacy and after a few rounds of audience participation, where even the most unwilling have been cajoled into various degrees of socialisation, the story begins.

It’s a simple and compelling tale. A heartbroken and reclusive pianist (Tama Jarman) is saved by his life-sized marionette (Justin Haiu) who is brought to life by music. A largely non-verbal mise-en-scene follows that traces a saga of friendship and freedom, laughter and love that is poignant as it is powerful.

The set and costume design, simply attributed to the collective White Face Crew, is exactly what we would expect from a lonely muso living alone with little to keep him company aside from his own eccentricities. Under Paul Nicoll’s lighting design the tired piano, faded linen and other bare essentials of the bachelor pad create a world where time has simply decided to stop. 

Waving his feather duster with dramatic precision it’s unlikely that anything can penetrate our pianist’s stuffed-shirt pomposity. Until of course, the arrival of a large box carrying the quintessential puppet. Baggy pants that are held up breeches, the iconic black and white striped jumper, an olive beret and a wide-eyed innocence complete this dangly newcomer as he moves in perfect rhythm to his owner’s experimentation.

If Jarman’s performance is riveting because of his exacting gestures and sense of heightened exaggeration then Haiu must be applauded for the ease of physical dexterity and uninterrupted lightness that be brings to every moment. Together they’re an ideal couple against the sculpted soundscape developed by Yann Tiersen and Tama Waipara. The score is one of the highlights of this work, carefully melding and creating tones that add volumes to the movement.

There are more than a few nods to the silent film era and it’s into this world that Rawiri continues to have a magnetic hold over the audience. He is our omnipresent narrator, disrupting the traditional mime expectations, yelling out cues for the lighting operator and generally adding a dose of saltiness to this nostalgic world.

The ending, however, is just a tad too rushed. There are so many exquisite moments that are built up during the majority of the show that it seems a pity to switch into a different gear – but it is a minor quibble. The strength of the performers and their ability to cradle the story and the space is generous and gentle.  

This is visual theatre at its best: rich, fertile and engaging. It’s also pantomime blanche (when the performers wear white paint on their faces) and offers an excellent feast of familiar stock characters, tropes, narratives all neatly presented with more than a few audacious twists.

Broader than modern mime and certainly stretching the boundaries of classical pantomime, the White Face Crew presents an ideal inter-generational work that will appeal to all ages. Take the kids and the grandparents – there will be laughter all around.


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A perfectly efficacious laughter tonic

Review by Nik Smythe 22nd Jun 2016

White Face Crew’s celebrated showcase work returns this week as part of the Basement Theatre’s extensive Matariki celebrations.  It’s my first viewing personally (it played the Auckland Fringe in 2013), but I have an inkling what to expect having previously enjoyed their extraordinary outdoor spectacle Double Derelicts.  My assumption is supported by the presence of a number of acquaintances here to see it a second or third time with eager anticipation. 

The packed Basement’s Bar is abuzz with festivity when the emcee, a white-faced fellow with a small pencil moustache, sharply dressed in black with polka-dot socks (Jarod Rawiri) bursts through the theatre doors to gregariously usher us into the auditorium.  His verbose enthusiasm belies the predominately wordless performance to follow. 

The set – design credited simply to White Face Crew (also costume design) – consists of somewhat worn-out domestic furniture: divan chest, telephone sideboard, dining table and a particularly ramshackle piano.  Their run-down condition matches that of our hero, an ageing, overweight (courtesy of a pillow none-too-subtly stuffed down his shirt), lonely man played by the story’s creator Tama Jarman, also dressed in black with tailcoat, argyle socks and a longer curlier moustache. 

He primly potters about his home with his feather duster and has a tinkle on the old ivories, when a large parcel is dropped off by a grey boiler-suited delivery man (Rawiri).  In due course within the quintessential clownery, it is opened to reveal a man-sized marionette in a stripey black and white t-shirt, red braces and green and purple plus fours (Justin Haiu). 

Haiu’s physical lightness and coordination is impressive, particularly as it synchronises masterfully with Jarman’s mimed string manipulations.  It soon transpires that the puppet is able to move independently when music is playing, whereupon the duo become close friends, sharing their daily activities: eating, cleaning and of course dancing. 

Jarman’s accomplished musical prowess on the huckery old upright is augmented by the excellent original musical score composed by Yann Tiersen and Tama Waipara.  Paul Nicoll’s lighting design serves the eccentric action well, in particular with the time-passing montage involving quick lighting changes and a fittingly loony moon played by Rawiri once again in a customized hatbox, a local cosmopolitan cousin of the classic Mighty Boosh precedent. 

While we are compelled to care about these characters and their poignant tale, the real magic is in the three players’ consummate clown, movement, and general comedic skills.  A number of brazenly forward interactions with the audience are roundly enjoyed by subjects and spectators alike, as their inclusive performance modus operandi has everyone relaxed enough to gleefully participate. 

The perfunctory conclusion with a delightfully tiny twist is similarly secondary to the outstanding performance.  My companion remarked it was a perfectly efficacious laughter tonic on a drizzly winter’s evening after an exasperating work day.


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A delectable liqueur to finish the feast

Review by John Smythe 18th Jun 2016

The Kia Mau Festival of theatre and dance from Māori artists – part of Te Whānganui-a-tara Wellington’s Matariki celebrations – crowns its BATS season with White Face Crew’s La Vie Dans Une Marionette. Billed as ‘The Clown Come-Back’, presumably because Tama Jarman has returned from his OE, this is a revival of the award-winning 2013 Auckland Fringe show.

Whereas Te Rēhia Theatre’s Regan Taylor has developed Māori Performance Mask (Te Mata Kokako o Rēhia) from commedia dell’arte conventions for SolOthello, at Circa Two, White Face Crew go the whole French hog (retain the full French frog?) with this exquisite mime show.

Actually Jarod Rawiri does break one convention by speaking in white-face, with a sexy French accent, as he greets us from the staircase and, once we are settled in the Heyday Dome, amusingly instructing us in ‘theatre etiquette’ with the help of a delightfully co-operative audience member. He speaks the odd word as the Man in the Moon, too. But the gibberish he speaks as a Delivery Man does have a distinctly Māori sound.

Tama Jarman’s stuffed-shirt Pianist and Justin Haiu’s boyish Marionette are entirely silent, however, honouring the classical conventions of white-face clowning by expressing all through physicality and gut-centred, fully-felt facial expression.

The story (for which Jarman is credited) sees a lonely Pianist taking delivery of a life-sized Marionette which turns out to be able to move independently as long as the piano is playing. The synchronicity between Haiu as puppet and Jarman as puppeteer, as their relationship develops, is sublime. Haiu’s skills as a dancer bring an extraordinary quality to his physicality and his slightly quizzical red-lipped smile is a heart-melter.  

As with Double Derelicts (White Face Crew’s contribution to last year’s Ahi Kaa Festival), a flashback sequence reveals why this relationship is needed. Here Jarman excels in playing both his younger self and his lover.

The afore-mentioned Moon is employed to signify the passing of time and Rawiri tops his warmly engaging performance with a beautifully executed moon-walk. There is pathos in the ending along with a recognition that the grieving process must end so that life can go on. Enough said on that: you must see it to fully appreciate its subtle artistry.

La Vie Dans Une Marionette is to the Kia Mau Festival what a delectable liqueur is to a delicious feast. 


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World class New Zealand theatre

Review by Glen Pickering 01st Mar 2013

Rules for having a good audience experience: 1. Laugh heartily; 2. Cry sorrowfully; 3. Give a standing ovation. This is what White Face Crew believes an audience deserves and thanks to them we did exactly that.  

La Vie Dans Une Marionette is the simple and charming story of a reclusive concert pianist who lives alone in his one bedroom flat. His only companion is the moon who disappears each morning. One morning the pianist has a giant box delivered to his house. It contains a puppet, which through the power of music can come to life by itself. The puppet’s presence fills the pianist’s house with music, movement and happiness. It gives him a companion to share his world with and ultimately allows the pianist to face the outside world again.

Originally created by Justin Haiu and Tama Jarman as a 10 minute piece for the 2010 Short and Sweet programme, they have cleverly developed it into 1 hour piece full of humour and humanity, with the stellar direction of Jarrod Rawiri.

Physical theatre, contemporary dance and clowning are the languages of this world. Playing the puppet, Haiu gives a flawless performance. He infuses every movement and expression with truth, wonder and magic. It is simply astounding to behold.

Jarman plays the more naturalistic of the two characters and does extremely well driving the story forward. Though he doesn’t have the physical precision of Haiu, he has a commanding presence that demands you watch him, and his comic timing is crisp and very playful. 

Rawiri plays the moon and the delivery man. He is, as always, brilliant, creating full characters with only short stage time. 

There are some wonderful themes that come through. The relationship between the pianist and the puppet is that of a father/son to begin with. The puppet learns to walk with the pianist there to catch him. The pianist teaches him behaviour and rituals which in turn become the puppet’s own.

There is also an idea that companionship can become habitual and repetitive with time. However it’s not until it’s gone that you realise how much strength you gained from that person’s constant love.

It is an excellent work already but I believe there is more to be discovered beyond a Fringe theatre show. There is even more polish, shine and precision to be had and if White Face Crew do go even further with it, don’t be surprised if you see this in the work in an international arts festival somewhere around the world because that’s where La vie Dans Une Marionette deserves to end up. It really is world class New Zealand theatre. 


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